We are still working off the two half turkeys we ate for Thanksgiving last week (one half turkey smoked, the other half roasted), the two kinds of pie (pumpkin and pecan), the extra fancy mashed potatoes (Mascarpone cheese was added for maximum creaminess) and the buckets of homemade Chex Mix. And even though I am still waddling around, I am feeling the need to bake, and to feel cozy in the kitchen. I long for comforting and familiar smells to waft through the house. I’m seeking warm firelight and twinkling candles. Winter is coming.
Let’s dive into the foods that celebrate Hanukkah, and the miracle of the Festival of Lights. Light your candles and remember how the lamp oil for one night became enough oil for eight nights. And then get ready for latkes, sufganiyah and rugelach; fried or oily foods that traditionally symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah.
Latkes are delicious crispy potato pancakes. I love potatoes in almost any form, but hot, crunchy latkes are particularly delicious. Shredded potatoes, onion, flour and egg, with applesauce and sour cream as toppings. Yumsters. With Hanukkah starting next week, we threw ourselves into exhaustive research for latkes. It is easy to fry up extras, and then freeze them for future use. That way, if you have company for a Hanukkah meal, you are not stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is enjoying your light touch and handiwork. Or, you can keep a stack or two in a warm oven, if you want to prepare them ahead of time and serve them in one fell swoop.
I heeded the extra hint to wring the grated potatoes in a dish cloth, twice, before mixing them with the egg, onion and the flour. That step made for lighter latkes. And I do not have a food processor, which I think would have reduced the time spent preparing the potatoes – but I did have a willing assistant who grated the potatoes on the box grater, and managed to do it without scraping his own knuckles. There is nothing like holiday ritual meal for bringing everyone into the kitchen. And eight nights of practice.
Sufganiyot (the plural of sufganiyah ) are delicious jelly doughnuts. Yes, you can make them at home. Do not give into temptation of buying them. You will impress yourself and your dinner guests with the joy of doughnuts, hot and fresh.
Bon Appétit has a handy dandy video if you have any doubts.
Rugelach cookies can be served both for Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. They are a forgiving cookie. You don’t need a t-square, or special cookie cutters or a bottle of silvery dragee sprinkles to make them. They are rolled pastries with fillings like fruit preserves, marzipan, raisins or chocolate. They are universally loved because of their crunchy exteriors and their chewy interiors. Rugelach are a great way to ease into you holiday baking. Dorie Greenspan has an excellent approach to rugelach:
Hanukkah starts on December 3, just in time to light some candles and start baking.
“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!”
― Dave Barry